MRPT codebase to comply with ClangFormat

The following instructions offer a summary of the formatting/style changes applied on July 7th 2017, as well as handy solutions for solving formatting problems and for making this transition as smooth as possible.

As of Nov 2022, we now use clang-format-11.


MRPT code is to be wrapped at 80 lines. This has the following consequences:

  • Long(er) inline doxygen comments //!< … are to be automatically wrapped up and indented at the same line. This is most likely not what the developer wants. To get around this replace them with the standard /** … */ comments or any other alternative outlined in the doxygen docs.

    For bulk reformatting of these comments you may use sed as in this script.

    WARNING: The /**…*/ snippet should be placed on the previous line from the variable, directive that is for. This is opposite to the convention for the //!<… commenting which is placed to the right of the variable/directive.

  • Long inline standard C comments // … weren’t been replaced prior to running clang-format in the codebase. If these exceeded the chars limit, they were wrapped in the next line, which, again, isn’t that the original developer would have wanted. However, they don’t affect either the doxygen documentation (they aren’t parsed at all) or the code compilation, so they are left as they are (wrapped) for now. If you encounter such a case, please manually fix the comments (e.g., put them prior to the directive they are meant for) and make a PR.

Comply new code with ClangFormat

The ClangFormat configuration that MRPT uses can be found here. To check whether your existing code complies with this, you can run the script from the MRPT root.

`sh TASK=lint_all travis/ `

The same script is also used to validate that your changes comply, when you make a Pull-Request to the MRPT upstream repo.

To format your changes according to the .clang-format configuration, either:

  • Run clang-format directly specifying the location of the modified files

    (beware to use the ClangFormat version specified in clang_git_format/

  • Run ClangFormat on the whole codebase. To do that use the script from the MRPT root directory. Since the MRPT codebase is already formatted, (assuming that your work off a commit after the codebase reformat) only your changes are going to be modified. Do check the results of ClangFormat before applying for a patch.


A very important step in the “post-reformat era” is to stick around and integrate ClangFormat into the daily routine for MRPT development. To that end there exist plugins, for your editor of choice, that facilitate applying the ClangFormat configuration while concurrently modifying/adding code.

The plugin of your choice should:

  • Format code based on the .clang-format file placed in the MRPT root directory.

  • Use the ClangFormat version especified at the top of this page. This is because part of the configuration directives are not compatible with previous ClangFormat versions.

Refer to the docs of the corresponding plugin for tweaking its behavior. Also, do check the MRPT Coding style to minimize the content that ClangFormat modifies